Phantom Thread (2017) Ending Explained: What Is It About?

This post includes a brief plot summary and an explanation about the ending of the film Phantom Thread (2017). What is it about? Beware of spoilers.

phantom thread 2017 alma and reynolds

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the 2017 romantic drama starts Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock and Vicky Krieps as Alma.

Phantom Thread (2017) – Plot Summary

Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned fashion designer in London. Most of his clients are members of high society. Reynolds runs his fashion house together with his sister Cyril.

During a trip to the countryside, the designer meets Alma, a waitress. Reynolds invites Alma to have dinner with him and she accepts. After dinner, Reynolds takes Alma to his cottage. The designer wants to take Alma’s measures for a new dress. Meanwhile, Cyril shows up at the cottage and Reynolds introduces Alma to her.

Shortly after, Alma moves in with Reynolds. She becomes his muse and his employee. At first, Alma enjoys working with Reynolds. However, as time passed by, she began to realize Reynolds’ controlling and obsessive nature. Despite of Reynolds’ short temper, Alma does not give on their relationship.

In an attempt to rekindle their romance, Alma prepares a romantic dinner to have some alone time with Reynolds. Therefore, she sends Cyril and staff away. The surprise turns into an heated argument with Reynolds, because he hates changes in his routine.

The next morning, Alma gathers some wild mushrooms. Then, she puts some of them on Reynold’s tea. After drinking the poisoned tea, Reynolds faints and falls right on top of the princess’s wedding gown. The dress suffered some damages. As a result, the staff had to work all night to repair it.

During his recovery, Reynolds hallucinates about his late mother. Alma takes care of him the entire time and when Reynolds wakes up he proposes to her. Alma accepts and shortly after, the wedding takes place. Nonetheless, their renewed honeymoon phase doesn’t last very long.

Alma and Reynolds start bickering again. Meanwhile, Cyril informs Reynolds that some of his major clients are going to the rival fashion house, hinting that his classical designs are becoming outdated.

A frustrated Reynolds concludes that Alma is the reason why he can’t no longer concentrate on his craft. Therefore, he makes the decision of breaking up with her and wants Cyril to send her the message. Meanwhile, Alma walks in and overhears the conversation.

Once again, Alma concocts a plan to poison Reynolds. This time, she is cooking him a wild mushroom omelette. When Reynolds chews the first bite, Alma tells him that she wants him weak and vulnerable. In addition, Alma also wants Reynolds to be completely dependant on her to take care of him. Reynolds complies, swallows the omelette and asks Alma to kiss him.

While taking care of Reynolds, Alma imagines their future life with children and running the fashion house together. Although Alma acknowledges that things are not going to be easy, she is certain that their love will help them overcome the challenges.

Phantom Thread (2017) – Ending Explained

The plot twist of Phantom Thread is totally out of this world. The ending just hits the viewer right in the face. But what really happened in the end?

Before, we jump to the discussion about the ending of Phantom Thread, what is the film really about? In very simple terms, it’s about a man who learns how to accept his wife as an equal.

phantom thread 2017 ending explained

Some believe that is about toxic masculinity. However, Woodcock is not a very accurate representation of that. Personally, I don’t see Reynolds as an example of toxic masculinity. He’s a man-child. Having said that, I don’t see Phantom Thread as a film that portrays men behaving poorly because they can. I just see Reynolds being himself, a talented man with prickly tendencies.

There’s also prevalent talk about a possible mystical / spiritual element in Phantom Thread, but that theory is incorrect. The film’s title has nothing to do with ghosts. The word phantom is referring to the hidden messages that Woodcock sews into his clients’ dresses.

By the way, when Reynolds’ mother appeared in his room, that was a hallucination. Alma’s tea with the poisoned mushrooms made Reynolds have those visions. There is nothing supernatural going on in Phantom Thread.

The curse that Reynolds often talks about is something that he made up in his head. The man is still a bachelor, because he’s a difficult person to live with. That’s the truth. The curse is just a poor excuse to justify why he’s still single.

Alma And Reynolds – Relationship Explained

Let’s talk about Alma and Reynolds, as well as, their relationship. Who are these people?

Reynolds is a man of old habits. He applies the same m.o. to every woman he meets. Women are like temporary muses for Reynolds. The designer falls in love rather quickly, but he doesn’t keep his women for very long.

It’s important to denote that Reynolds, never breaks up with his girlfriends, he likes to send his sister Cyril to do the dirty job. Just to add another quirk: the man has a strict morning routine that makes every OCD person relate to him.

As you might have guessed, people like Reynolds don’t like change. However, Alma is not down for that and none of his tantrums. As a result, she refuses to “obey” him and turns his world upside down. Alma is different from the other women, because she challenges Reynolds’ old ways.

Despite of the crazy ups and downs of their relationship, Alma and Reynolds are a couple. Although people don’t like the idea of power dynamics in a romantic relationship, it exists.

At the start of their affair, Reynolds had a lot of saying on what Alma could do or could not do. That happened because Alma didn’t mind it, as long as, she was his one and only. Alma wants Reynolds, she’s not with Reynolds only because of his money.

Once Reynolds started losing interest in Alma, she also started changing her mind about giving too much power to Reynolds. Although Alma started off as Reynold’s muse, she’s now the obsessed one. Anyone relatively sane would have left Reynolds a long time ago. As I said before, Reynolds is a difficult person to be around with.

Why Did Alma Poison Reynolds?

Alma has her own ideas about love. For her, there’s no intimacy without vulnerability and Reynolds refuses to show that side of him. Reynolds likes to project a strong and put together image of himself. Nonetheless, Alma is not a person that gives up easily.

The poisoning usually happens when Reynolds is about to breakup with Alma. What is the reasoning behind it? Alma wants Reynolds. However, she also needs Reynolds to be vulnerable, in order to make their relationship work. Otherwise, Reynolds will just fall back into his old habits.

But how can one make Reynolds vulnerable? Alma figured out that the only way to “break” Reynolds was to make him weak. As a result, she decided to poison her husband. Despite of being very extreme in her actions, Alma is not trying to kill Reynolds. No. She just wants to make him a little bit sick, so he can be more vulnerable and open up to her.

Why Did Reynolds Let Alma Poison Him?

Reynolds knows what Alma has done and he’s okay with it. That’s why he ate the mushrooms with a grin on his face. Now, why didn’t he at least get angry at Alma? Why did Reynolds let Alma poison him?

The man knows that his inability to be vulnerable has prevented him from being in a meaningful / long-term relationship. Being with Alma and letting her challenge his habits has allowed him to see that. No one cursed Reynolds, he cursed himself.

By the way, Reynolds is a man of many quirks and that applies to his views on love too. The designer doesn’t need Alma in his life. However, the man is happy because he has finally found his match. That’s why Reynolds passionately kisses Alma after eating the poisoned mushrooms.

The ending of Phantom Thread really says it all. The relationship between Alma and Reynolds is pretty intriguing to say the least. Is their love real? Yes. However, love is not always pretty and healthy. In many ways, love is just like food, not everything is good for you. Nonetheless, this type of love works for people like Alma and Reynolds. At the end of the day, it’s a consensual relationship.

Final Thoughts

Phantom Thread is definitely not a crowd pleaser. It’s one those films that the viewer is going to either love or hate. By the way, Phantom Thread is a very deceiving film but in a good way.

I’m going to be honest, the first part of the film is not much. However, I believe it was an intentional trick. First, the film puts all the pretty things in the beginning. Then, it hits the audience with the ugly, when no one saw it coming.

As a viewer, I expected a drama / romance type of film which Phantom Thread delivered, but I also got something extra. There were some pretty funny moments in the film. However, the comedy is not intentional. It’s funny because some of those moments were just too real.

That unintentional comedy reminds me of Gone Girl. Personally, I think they are both amazing romantic comedies. They are in-depth explorations about toxic relationships with a brilliant touch of dark humour. The keyword here is dark. Let me remind you that, both are not pretty love stories. However, they are real and raw.

The film doesn’t shy away from the ugly moments that every couple faces (at some point) in a serious / long-term relationship. To be honest, both Alma and Reynolds are hot messes that’s why they are such a good match.

Reynolds definitely does not have his life together. Although the man thinks he does (the rituals), he really doesn’t. The way how Reynolds views women is deplorable to say the least. Basically, for this man, women are like tissues and he discards them once they’ve served their purpose. In other words, when these women stop bringing him joy, he says goodbye to them.

What about Alma? She one of the most refreshing characters that I’ve seen in while. The woman is proactive and goes after what she wants. Although, poisoning your partner is a terrible idea, she’s definitely getting an A+ for creativity.

When I labelled Phantom Thread as a romantic comedy, I wasn’t condoning toxic relationships. There’s nothing romantic about being with a toxic partner. However, I believe that films like Phantom Thread present a whole different spectrum of what relationships are sometimes: a hot mess.

Personally, I despise the Disney narrative of relationships. Boy meets girl. Then, he proposes and they live happily ever after. That’s not how it works, at least not for most people. There are a lot of things happening between the marriage and the “happily ever after”. Those are the stories that I want to see more often on the silver screen.

Overall, Phantom Thread is a memorable film with a wicked sense of humour and an unforgettable ending. I kid you not, when Alma started to poison Reynolds with those mushrooms that set a whole another tone for the film. Game changing moment.